All of Carbondale’s Sopris Park is a scene the last full weekend in July every summer, and for about half of the mountain fair’s 51 years, Mark Taylor has been more than just a player.
Taylor’s Mountain Fair volunteer roots go back to the early 1990s, when the North Carolina native first came to town to attend Colorado Mountain College.
His first mountain fair was actually in 1989, when he was living in Leadville for the summer and heard about the little hippie fair across Independence Pass. He decided to come with his then-girlfriend to check it out.
After several years of helping out here and there alongside hundreds of other volunteers who make Mountain Fair a reality, Taylor was hired in the late 1990s by then director Thomas Lawley to be the director. official production.
In this role, Taylor manages the fair’s installation team, which includes everything from installing all necessary electrical and water infrastructure, constructing the fair’s operating booths, setting up from the canteen, erecting the tents, putting up the signs, installing the recycling/compost/garbage stations… you get the picture.
During the final installation on Thursday and Friday, and throughout the weekend, there is also a lot of troubleshooting and making sure the vendors are well taken care of.
“It’s more than that, though,” Taylor said. “Mountain Fair is its own thing and has its own energy. So, I think about it more because I had this great opportunity to be the one in charge of opening this bag.
“It’s been one of the greatest honors for me to be a part of it and to work with the folks at Carbondale Arts Council and all the connections I now have through the Mountain Fair.”
Taylor and Amy Kimberly, director of Mountain Fair since 2004 and artistic director of Carbondale since 2011, both announced this spring that they would step down. of their respective roles after this year’s fair.
“Mark has been with the fair longer than I have and has been a guardian of the spirit of the fair,” Kimberly said. “He taught me to maintain the magic in this fair.”
Kimberly, who calls her decision to step down a “reconnect,” said it’s important to remember that Mountain Fair isn’t about one person or a group of people.
“It belongs to the community,” she said.
Along the way, Kimberly said it was always Taylor and a group of longtime Mountain Fair magicians who reminded her that because it’s a community festival, they should never do anything like do pay admission or have visible sponsorship banners hanging everywhere.
“As long as I followed this advice, the magic would proliferate,” Kimberly said.
This is something Taylor is passionate about.
“The collective joy that we’ve been able to muster over the years, you know, it’s magic,” he said. “And I don’t say that casually.”
This is one of the reasons why some 300 volunteers are involved each year to help with all aspects of the smooth running of a community festival.
“And they do it for a T-shirt, cold beer and snacks,” Taylor said. “Mountain Fair doesn’t belong to anyone, it’s all ours. And that’s what I love the most. »
Mountain Fair again takes center stage in Carbondale from Friday to Sunday in Sopris Park and along the streets of the town centre.
Small town atmosphere
Taylor, who turns 55 next month, grew up in the town of Elkin, North Carolina, which is even smaller than Carbondale.
“It was very ideal in the sense that you knew everyone and all the store owners,” he said. “We all got along well and played well together.”
There was no big festival like Mountain Fair in Elkin, but he said his grandparents in particular instilled in him a strong sense of community and service to others.
Taylor studied outdoor education at CMC when he came to Carbondale, but did not follow that career path. He did a summer internship with the Appalachian Trail Club, but soon returned to Colorado and worked in the ski business for a time before starting his own construction business.
“We mostly did high performance renovations and upgrades, and worked with (clients) to achieve appropriate energy efficiency technology and things like that,” Taylor said of this time in her life. , which was similar to the day-to-day lifestyle that shaped many Roaring Fork Valley residents.
About 10 years ago, Taylor was hired to be the facilities manager at Carbondale’s Third Street Center, the converted former elementary school building that now houses several nonprofits and serves as a community gathering space. for meetings and events.
“Through the Third Street Center, these organizations can thrive and do amazing work. Participating in achieving this goal is sometimes humbling,” he said, crediting the center’s longtime manager, Colin Laird, for facilitating much of this effort.
“He’s an absolute gift and has a gift,” Taylor said of Laird, who now sits on Carbondale’s board.
Maintain the magic
Taylor said he always takes a break during the often hectic Mountain Fair weekend to entice one of his volunteers and have them just watch the crowds.
“I’ll ask them, ‘What do you see over there?’ And it’s all these happy people dancing and laughing and carrying on and having fun, you know.
“We are responsible for this,” Taylor said. “For a while we helped make it all right…and that’s powerful.”
However, as with any event or organization that has such an impact, it is important to pay for this experience, he said.
In the nonprofit world, there’s a term for it — “founder’s disease,” Taylor said. It’s something he learned along the way from some of his Mountain Fair mentors who previously backed off and let others take their place.
“I could go on, but it wouldn’t be fair,” he said. “There’s a status quo that comes with being in any position for a long time, and the fair deserves to grow.
“It’s a bit like ripping off a bandage,” admits Taylor, suppressing some emotion.
But it’s hard to ignore the new generation of enthusiastic, creative young people who love Mountain Fair as much as he does and want to be the next generation to step into those leadership roles, he said.
“I think it’s important that we get out of our way and make this happen,” Taylor said.
Already, a group of successors have stepped forward to take on some of these key roles, including community activist and longtime Mountain Fair volunteer James Gorman as Taylor’s successor to lead the production team.
They also include Aly Sanguily, who is the new head of entertainment for Mountain Fair, and Deborah Colley, who will now take over as chief operating officer.
The theme for the 51st Mountain Fair is “New Moon Magic”, and visitors can likely expect magical moments as Taylor, Kimberly and others are honored for their many years of work to maintain the ‘vibe.
Senior Reporter/Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or [email protected]